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Three Strangers (1946)

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Three strangers, each with a serious problem in their lives, share a sweepstakes ticket which they wished upon together before a Chinese idol.



(original screenplay), (original screenplay)
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Complete credited cast:
Crystal Shackleford
Johnny West
Icey Crane
Robert Shayne ...
Bertram Fallon
Marjorie Riordan ...
Janet Elliott
Arthur Shields ...
Rosalind Ivan ...
Lady Rhea Belladon
John Alvin ...
Junior Clerk
Peter Whitney ...
Timothy Delaney aka Gabby
David Shackleford
Clifford Brooke ...
Senior Clerk
Doris Lloyd ...
Mrs. Proctor


According to a legend, if three strangers gather before an idol of Kwan Yin (the Chinese goddess of fortune and destiny) on the night of the Chinese New Year and make a common wish, Kwan Yin will open her eyes and her heart and grant the wish. In London 1938 on the Chinese New Year, Crystal Shackleford has such an idol and decides to put the legend to the test. She picks two random strangers off the street, and puts the proposition to them. They decide that an ideal wish would be for a sweepstakes ticket they buy equal shares in to be a winner. After all, everyone needs money and a pot is very easy to divide equally, right? Written by Ken Yousten <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


BREATHTAKING SUSPENSE - THRILLS! (original ad - all caps)


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

28 January 1946 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

3 Desconhecidos  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Alfred Hitchcock showed early interest in directing. See more »


David Shackleford: [to Crystal] You only want what you can't have as long as you can't have it.
See more »


Waltz in A Flat Major, Op. 39
Music by Johannes Brahms
Played on the piano by Johnny
See more »

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User Reviews

The Twists and Turns of Luck and Strangers
28 August 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Geraldine Fitzgerald believes in the Chinese God of Luck and Fortune. She goes out one night, and picks up Sidney Greenstreet. He follows her very easily (apparently believing her a prostitute, but why not), and they return to her apartment, where Greenstreet is surprised to find Peter Lorre there, having a drink. Lorre had been chosen earlier, and been waiting for his hostess to return. Fitzgerald explains to her two partners that if they work together the God of Luck will reward them. The Grand National is about to take place (this is 1938) and there is a lottery for a possible "winning" ticket. All three agree to join together in the purchase of a lottery ticket (but only one of them can have his or her name on the ticket - they agree to allow Ms Fitzgerald to have her name on the ticket). However, they have a written agreement to jointly share the results (if any) of the ticket. condition - they can't allow any of the three to leave the agreement, or the chain binding their luck together will collapse.

It is a pip of a movie - not only the best of the Greenstreet and Lorre films (without Humphrey Bogart), but the best performance in the carreer of Geraldine Fitzgerald. Her Chrystal Shackleford is one of the least likeable or sympathetic women in the movies. She is having problems with her husband (Alan Napier). He is tired of her vicious nature and nymphomania (she burns his hand with a cigarette butt at one point). He's met Marjorie Riordan, and wants to divorce Fitzgerald and marry her. Fitzgerald breaks up his romance with Riordan by lying about Napier. She also is willing to allow Lorre to go to the gallows (when his luck seems going down the tubes), chortling in unholy glee with Greenstreet. And when Greenstreet tries to convince her to sell the race ticket they now own (Greenstreet desperately needs the money), she laughingly kicks him out of her apartment. When she does get her just desert in the conclusion, one can't sympathize with her.

Greenstreet's Jerome K. Arbutny, a solicitor who is too greedy for his own good, is as larcenous and dangerous as Casper Gutman or Titus Semple. It is amazing that an actor who was a brilliant comic performer on Broadway left such a long train of excellent performances as villains, but that is how it frequently happens. Like Chrystal, Arbutny brings about his own problems - he is convinced that he can make money on dubious stock deals, although he is aware of the laws about violating estate trusts (which a solicitor handles). Two of the best scenes in the film show him trying to solve his money troubles by marrying the dotty Lady Rhea Bellodon (Rosalind Ivan, in a marvelous cameo performance), and then (when this engagement collapses) his attempt to commit suicide carefully in his office. The former sequence is carefully built up, for the audience is kept from knowing one secret - that Lady Rhea is a believer in spiritualism, and always asks the "spirit" of her husband to advise her. When Arbutny offers his hand in marriage, Lady Rhea explains she has to ask her husband - the audience has not heard she is a widow yet, but we wonder how Arbutny could ask for her hand if her husband is still around. Then Arbutny hears Lady Rhea's request, but does not look startled. Indeed he takes it very seriously. Then we realize that the advise will be through Lady Rhea's favorite medium. [To cap it off, the medium or Lord Belladon suggests that Lady Rhea check the books of Arbutny's firm first - something that does shake up Arbutny!] As for the suicide attempt, Arbutny first gives his two clerks the day off (in an earlier scene he was yelling at them for being fools), then he writes a letter of apology to Lady Rhea, and starts moving his office furniture . He spreads out a newspaper on the carpet to prevent his bleeding on it when the bullet enters his head. As he leans forward in his stuffed chair to fall forward he starts. The favorite for the Grand National is Corncracker, the horse on the ticket that he owns one third of. All thoughts of suicide pass out of his mind. Perhaps, as things turn out, it would have been better if he had committed suicide.

Lorre's character, Johnny, is a ne'er-do-well, of good family but he's living under a pseudonym, and he works in a gang. He and a man named Bertam Fallon (and a third man (Peter Whitney) - a good guy who does not like Fallon) were involved in a robbery, and a policeman was killed. He is alone in court, only supported by Icey (Joan Loring) his girl friend [Fallon had his eye on her too, which is why Whitney suspects Fallon's plans for the robbery - that he may be setting Lorre up.] The prosecutor (Arthur Shields, in one of his good performances again) rips apart Fallon's defense (he set up a fake alibi). Fallon makes a deal to save himself at Lorre's expense, and Lorre is sentenced to death, while Fallon will get a prison sentence. Earlier we saw Lorre signal Loring and Whitney not to come forward, when the police had arrested him. Our sympathies remain with Lorre. So when Whitney turns avenger, and throws a knife into Fallon (despite Fallon's police escort), we cheer on the doomed avenger. Lorre is cleared by the dying man, and time to learn that Corncracker is the favorite in the race. He heads for Chrystal's apartment and the denoument of this tragic comedy.

Who are the three strangers? Usually Fitzgerald, Lorre, and Greenstreet are considered the strangers, whose weird fates are at the center of the film's twists and turns. But if one studies the film everyones fortunes go up and down. Alan Napier is looking forward to getting rid of this incubus wife of his with Riordan. He confronts and tells off Chrystal, and gets injured as a result. Then Riordan is convinced to break up with Napier (they were planning to leave on their honeymoon on a Belladon liner, tying their part of this fictional world with Arbutny's). At the end, Napier heads for a final confrontation (possibly a deadly one) with Fitzgerald, only to find someone has beaten him to it (his slight look of satisfaction when he finds this out is a minor treasure). Rosalind Ivans nuttiness seems pathetic to the audience, until the audience sees how it enables her to be protected for her own benefit. The two clerks of Greenstreet are treated like dirt and called fools, but they get a day off and he is the real fool. Fallon, the head of the gang, hires a barrister and pays for an alibi of sorts, only to watch his perjured witness torn apart by Arthur Shields. He is forced to make a cowardly deal (at Lorre's expense) to save his own life. Only he is universally despised now (even his guard dislikes him), and within seconds his life is taken by an avenging former gang member. Peter Witney was at large (thanks to Lorre's sacrifice), but avenges Lorre by killing Fallon. As a result (in a moving moment) Lorre and Loring see Witney in police custody, realizing he's doomed now for killing Fallon. If anything, the film may concentrate on Fitzgerald, Greenstreet, and Lorre, but fate is universal, and all of us get affected one way or another (by nature and each other). The most blessed ones among us just don't know our future, nor (if they are wise) seek to know it or totally control it.

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